Huge biomass gasification plant in Finland largest of its kind

By Lisa Gibson | June 08, 2011

A 140-megawatt biomass gasification plant in Vaasa, Finland, will be the largest of its kind in the world, providing heat for its small host community, as well as power for the grid.

Owned and operated by heat and power producer Vaskiluodon Voima Oy, the plant will be supplied by global technology provider Metso, and adjoined to Vaskiluodon’s existing 565 MW coal-fired plant in Vaasa. The €40 million ($58 million) gasification plant is scheduled to be operational in December 2012 and will enable Vaskiluodon Voima to replace 25 to 40 percent of the coal it now uses, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 230,000 tons per year.

The wood-fired system will also include a feedstock drying technology, yet another aspect that sets it apart from similar processes, according to Juhani Isaksson, Metso product manager. "The majority of the world's energy production is still heavily relying on coal,” he said. “Metso's new biogasification technology, including biomass drying, offers a new, cost-effective alternative for large coal-fired plants to increase the share of biomass and reduce the proportion of coal and emissions.”

The biogas produced by the process will be ideal for cofiring with coal or other fossil fuels, according to Maurice Blomberg, managing director of Vaskiluodon Voima.  “It would also be possible to combust biomass with the coal, but then the process would require uniform, dry biomass," he said. ''The significant advantage with Metso's solutions is the capability for biomass diversity, thanks to the drying that is part of the gasification plant and involves the use of surplus plant heat. So, we can use, for example, moist wood chips which is an affordable solution."

Blomberg also emphasized that fuel mix diversity gives Vaskiluodon Voima flexibility in purchasing a wide variety of biomasses. "If the availability of biomass would face temporary disruptions, Metso's solution will enable the original coal capacity to be taken into operation.” Fuel diversity also creates new jobs in the region, and the gasification plant's direct impact on annual employment will affect about 100 people.